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Real-World Science: Smith Will Host Fairs

Research & Inquiry

  • February 21, 2020
  • By Emilia Tamayo ’23
Student studying her notes at her booth during a science fair

On two Saturdays this spring, the campus will be filled with aspiring middle and high school scientists displaying projects ranging from hair health to binding agents in bubble gum, as Smith hosts the 2020 Western Massachusetts Science and Engineering Fairs.

This will be the first year that the regional fairs will take place at Smith.

The college’s Jandon Center for Community Engagement and Clark Science Center were eager to host the competitions, which had previously been held at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams. 

“We thought that we could increase exposure for more of the region’s students by bringing them to Smith and Northampton,” says Jandon Center Director Denys Candy. “Over time, we hope to expand participation by students from underrepresented districts in Western Massachusetts.”

Deborah Day, Smith’s STEAM outreach coordinator and chair of the Western Massachusetts Science and Engineering Fair, expects at least 40 students will compete at the high school level, and about 100 at the middle school level for medals, scholarships and the chance to advance to national and international  science fair competitions.

The  overall goal, Day says, “is to empower our youth to recognize their potential contribution to real-world problem solving.”

The Jandon Center has teamed up with campus organizations—including the Center for the Environmental Ecological Design and Sustainability, the Design Thinking Initiative and the Smith College Museum of Art, among others—to help make the fair a memorable experience for participants. Activities will range from chocolate mold-making to zebrafish embryology demonstrations, to tours of the art museum. 

The fairs also provide learning opportunities for Smith student volunteers. Jandon Center STEAM fellows Megan Holm ’22, Tracy Rompich ’21, Emma Tierney ’22 and fair advisory committee member Hannah Rappaport ‘22 have been working closely with Day to create activities to bring the fair to life for middle and high school students.

During the April 4 middle school fair, Smith students in visiting assistant professor Daniel Vahaba’s “Science in the Public Eye” class plan to stage an activity in which they will be fair exhibitors and middle school students will be the judges.

Westfield High School chemistry teacher Jon Tyler says his students have been working on their science fair projects since last summer.  Among them:  “Can Bubble Gum and Other Home-Made Threadlocker Binding Agents Be Used in a Pinch”, by senior Charles Przechocki,” and “The Effect of the Curly Hair Method on Health of Hair Strands,” by senior Karina Barakhtenova. 

Participating in the fair teaches students how to “research a project idea and begin a literature review,” Tyler says. “I can tell you that students who attend have a great time and return invigorated about their interest in science.”

Smith community members are invited to explore the science fair projects from noon to 1 p.m. on each of the fair days. Projects will be displayed in the Campus Center Carroll Room for the high school fair on Saturday, March 7, and in the Smith Conference Center for the middle school fair on Saturday, April 4.

Additional information is available online.